Monday, September 26, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week has been all about food preservation for us.  We got a boatload of tomatoes from the food pantry (heirloom green zebras), so we've been drying them and making sauces.  I've also been trying to put up some of the carrots that are rolling around in the fridge and taking up too much space.

Here are our weekly accomplishments for this week:

  • All meals were made at home.  We shared three community meals with family and friends, which helped with time and budget.
  • Took advantage of meal provided at school on a day we had a workshop
  • We made six cups of pizza sauce using this recipe.  I added some gifted mushrooms.  We froze this. (We plan to make another batch or two.)
  • We made two batches of dried tomatoes overnight in the dehydrator.
  • Processed winter squash for baby food and stored in freezer in ice cube trays.
  • Used food pantry bread for egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfasts.
  • Froze fruit from food pantry for use in smoothies and Popsicles.
  • Used brown paper bags for draining bacon rather than paper towels
  • Used crock pot to make three meals/sides
  • Composted all kitchen waste
  • Washed most laundry in cold water, except diapers.
  • Continued to hang clothes to dry, either inside on racks or outdoors.
  • Did shared family baths with the boys to save on water.
  • Used rags for cleaning and washable mop pads for mopping the floor
  • Skipped grocery shopping and relied on pantry, fridge, and freezer staples.
  • Combined errands to save on fuel
  • Carpooled to work most days
  • Began weeding and deadheading the gardens for fall.  Need to rake leaves to add to the compost or use as mulch in garden beds.
  • Had a contractor come for quotes on various jobs around the house.  Hope to compare with another contractor in a week or so and compare.
  • Posted upstairs rental space ad on Craigslist to be filled by January.  Hoping for responses soon.
  • Made new chore chart for little man and hoping to re-implement this with him so that there's more motivation to clean up toys in his room and common spaces before bed each night.  Added clearing the table and setting the table for dinner.
What about you?  What did you do to live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week we did pretty well with sticking to our budget.  Benny did take off work on Saturday to spend the day with little man, which was awesome and I think they both benefited from a "boys day."  Mom and I took baby boy to a baby shower for my cousin (out of town), and Mom drove, which saved us on gas and wear and tear on our car.  It was a great weekend for us all and we had some much needed family time, even though we were all in different places.

  • We cooked all meals at home.  We had several shared meals, which saved time and money with meal prep.
  • We composted all appropriate kitchen scraps, brown paper, and paper towels.  We're calling this week to pick up spent grains from a local brewery for more compost material.  
  • Used the crock pot twice to fix black beans and black bean chili.
  • Made an expired corn bread mix that was donated to us.  It didn't rise as much, but tasted great, so we'll use the rest of the mix up soon.
  • Appreciated heirloom tomatoes donated to the food pantry (they came from a farm and they were the ugly ones that wouldn't sell... they donated over 150 lbs!).  They were going to be bad by Wednesday, so I took a box and made homemade pizza sauce in the crock pot.  We'll eat the rest fresh or freeze them for later use in soups.  If I weren't juggling the boys, I would have taken more to make and can salsa.
  • Used our herbs and garlic from the garden to spice up meals.
  • Made smoothies with food pantry fruit.
  • It was super doubles at HT this week, and I managed to stock up on several necessary items and keep the food budget in tact.  The bill was $40.
  • Continued to hang all clothing and diapers to dry.  The season for using the outdoor clothesline is waning, as the fall rains begin to set in, but we're making use of our drying racks and ceiling fans to dry things indoors.
  • Used family cloth and cloth wipes while at home to cut down on the use of disposables.  
  • Repurposed mismatched pillow cases for changing pad covers.  They work great and are easy to change.
  • Gratefully accepted some hand-me-downs for little man from a coworker.  He loves the new clothes, and it's nice to have a few things he can grow into.
  • Reused gift bags and greeting card fronts for gifts for a baby shower and birthday party this weekend.  Little man made a tie dye t-shirt for his friend using a kit we had, so it was a cheap gift and he had fun making it.  It's also nice that these can be made ahead and are unisex, so they work for either gender.  
  • Began getting estimates for some carpentry work we need done around the house.  We had planned to do it earlier this summer, but it just didn't happen.  We're hoping that we might get a better rate on it now that its not the busy season and people are needing jobs more.
  • Spent time weeding the garden some and planning for fall preparations.  Would like to find some free straw bales for the garlic beds so I don't have to purchase any.  
What did you do to live and save green last week?  I'd love to hear from you!  I'm linking up to The Prudent Homemaker today.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Frugal Accomplishments

This past week we did pretty well with our budget.  We've thankfully filled our rental space upstairs, at least until December, so that eases the budget (and she's a great fit so far!).  We did have a hefty dental bill this week, but it was for expected cleanings for me and little man, so it was within the budget and paid with our HSA money.  The food pantry was a huge help this week and we were glad to be able to save some produce that would have otherwise gone in the dumpster.

So, here's the breakdown for those interested in specifics:

  • Made all meals at home.  We did have one treat out thanks to Mom, when a local restaurant was having a fund raiser for the food pantry.  Packed lunches from leftovers.
  • Composted kitchen scraps, brown paper, and paper towels for minimal household waste.
  • Put one quart of strawberries in the freezer from the food pantry.
  • Froze one gallon of mixed fruit from the food pantry for use in smoothies.
  • Put up two quarts of bell peppers in the freezer from the pantry and our CSA.
  • Made a quart of pickled jalapenos from some that were in the freezer that needed to be used.
  • Picked up a few veggies from the food pantry that I knew we would use in meals this week including mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and celery.
  • Used bread bowls from the pantry to make two batches of croutons.  We're loving these in soup, and they're a popular snack lately.  They are a nice free substitution for crackers, since they fit that crunchy craving.  Little man loves them.
  • Used the crock pot to make a white bean and kale soup with ingredients we had on hand, saving on electricity.
  • Took advantage of two shared meals.
  • Made mint tea with mint from the garden.  Need to harvest more to freeze or dry.
  • Spent less than $30 at the grocery store for milk, cream cheese, some yogurt, and a little fruit on sale.  Also picked up four packages of natural sausages for $2 each on discount.  We love these on the grill or in jambalaya.
  • Enjoyed snacks at our parenting class for kids with speech delays.  They provide child care, so even though we're paying for the class, we don't have the additional cost of child care.
  • Used rags to clean spills
  • Made homemade shower cleaner (need to make one for upstairs too) using white vinegar and dish soap
  • Hung most laundry to dry, except sheets and towels, which needed a quick turn around this week.
  • Used HSA money to pay for two dental cleanings, which meant that we could use this money pretax from my paycheck, saving us some in the long run.
  • Carpooled most days to work, saving on gas.
  • Continued to pump breast milk at work, saving on formula.  It is nice that the baby is getting close to solid foods, so I won't have to pump as much soon.  We keep our pumping supplies minimal, using a hand pump and one bottle that we wash between feedings.  This minimalism really helps us cut down on clutter and saves time in the long run not having to worry about set up, etc.
  • Figured out Benny's work schedule and Mom watches the boys one day so that he can work.  He's working about 12 hours a week, which is nice for the budget and gives him some time away from the boys.  Grateful to have a mom who will keep the boys for free.
  • Accepted an invitation to a baby shower.  Taking some things that we didn't need for the boys, as well as a few hand-me-downs she might appreciate.  Made a card and will reuse a gift bag.
  • Grateful for a scholarship for one of little man's preschools.  He goes two mornings a week to a speech/language preschool and two mornings to a church preschool.  The speech/language one isn't cheap, so we're glad to get help with the other.  We're hopeful that by investing now, his transition to school in a few years will be much easier.  
  • Used a gift card to purchase two bed pillows for us for Christmas (we needed some new ones badly).  The older ones will go to the boys' room.  We're trying to really use gift cards and coupons to keep holiday spending minimal. (Does anyone know how to environmentally responsibly dispose of used pillows that aren't natural materials?  I've thought of reusing the filling for something, but not sure...)
What did you do to live and save green this week?  I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September Menu Plan

This month, as usual, is all about making what we can at home and saving the most of our paychecks.  To that end, we're going to continue taking advantage of the gifts we get from the food pantry at church (food items clients don't want or items that will go bad before the next open day for clients), make use of our CSA veggies, and our freezer stash.  Our hope is to glean some apples later in the month from some friends for drying and making homemade applesauce and apple butter.  We'll also continue to take advantage of shared meals with family and friends, and community meals when possible to stretch our leftovers.  If I can save enough, we might use a portion of this month's budget to stock up on some wine for the year when they have the case sale at HT.  Hopefully, we can continue to keep our grocery budget to $100 or less this month, especially with still getting CSA veggies and pantry items.

So, without further ado, here's the plan for this month:

Breakfasts:  baked oatmeal (using the recipe from Simply in Season), bagels with cream cheese or as egg sandwiches, french toast casserole, blueberry muffins, winter squash muffins, zucchini flax muffins, zucchini and oatmeal waffles, egg and cheese sandwiches, smoothies, breakfast egg casserole with veggies

Lunches:  Our lunches are mostly leftovers.  Right now we're rounding out lunches with fresh tomatoes (so yummy from our CSA), salads, and seasonal fresh fruit (mostly peaches).  I know that at least one lunch this month will be free for me at school, since our PTO is doing a lunch for teachers.

Dinners:  beans and greens stew, pot roast in the crock pot, black bean chili with fresh tomatoes, peppers, and onions and corn bread on the side, veggie stir fry with egg rolls, homemade pizza with pesto and veggies x3, breakfast for dinner with homemade applesauce, tomato basil soup, meatball subs with roasted veggies, veggie wraps with hard boiled eggs

We've been doing pretty well with trying out new recipes, even amidst finding our new groove as a family of four with me back to work.  We loved the zucchini oatmeal waffles, and are anxious to try the beans and greens stew.

What about you?  I'd love to hear your menu plans, or if you've found new recipes that might be a cinch to make with two little ones in the mix!